First, it's important to note that you should see a doctor to be evaluated if you are experiencing frequent heartburn. Frequent heartburn can be a symptom of something more serious, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Once you receive a diagnosis, you can discuss your treatment options with your doctor; you should never begin or stop any treatment without consulting a physician.
Your doctor will most likely suggest that you try one or more lifestyle modifications to treat your heartburn before considering any medications. When talking about your treatment, you can also discuss the use of various home remedies for your heartburn treatment.
The alternative remedies listed below, such as apple cider vinegar and chamomile tea, have been used as home remedies for heartburn. However, it's important to note that there haven't been any clinical trials to support their affects on heartburn in most cases.
Avoid Heartburn Trigger FoodsKeep a heartburn diary to track which foods cause heartburn. The foods and beverages that most commonly trigger heartburn include:
- Citrus fruits
- Citrus juices
- Excessive alcohol consumption (especially red wine)
- Tomatoes and tomato-based products
- Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee
- Carbonated beverages, such as colas
Eat Smaller, More Frequent MealsLarge meals expand the stomach and can increase upward pressure against the esophageal sphincter.
Wait at Least 2 to 3 Hours After Eating to Head to Bed
Gravity helps keep the stomach juices from backing up into the esophagus and assists the flow of food and digestive juices from the stomach to the intestines -- why you may feel better standing up right after eating than laying down.
Elevate Your Head While You SleepLaying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the connection between the esophagus and stomach. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. You can elevate your head a few inches in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that's sturdy securely under the legs of your bed at the head. You can also use an extra pillow, or a wedge-shaped pillow, to elevate your head. Read more on preventing nighttime heartburn.
Don't SmokeNicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid.
RelaxWhile stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn. Follow these relaxation tips to alleviate stress, and thus make stress-related heartburn less likely.
Baking SodaBaking soda is a natural antacid. If you dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water, it can neutralize acid and temporarily alleviate heartburn caused by acid reflux. There are some drawbacks, however, to this. When you add baking soda to water, it releases carbon dioxide. That's what causes the fizz. This fizz can open the LES to enable you to burp, and help relieve the pressure from bloating. Unfortunately, though, opening the LES can also allow stomach contents to reflux up into the esophagus.
DGLDeglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is another remedy used for heartburn. It is available in chewable tablets or capsules you can break open and dissolve in water. You should not use DGL if you have been diagnosed with hypertension and/or are receiving treatment for hypertension.
BananasBananas act as a natural antacid in the body. You can eat either fresh or dried bananas.
Chamomile TeaChamomile has been used to help neutralize stomach acid. It is also used by people as a stress reliever.
Apple Cider VinegarPeople have reported that natural apple cider vinegar works for them. Apple cider vinegar can be taken in tablet, capsule, or liquid form.
GingerFresh ginger is one of the oldest remedies for heartburn. It is also used to help treat nausea. Ginger can be added to food when it's cooked, eaten raw, or consumed as ginger tea.
TurmericTurmeric helps stimulate digestion and prevent acid build-up. Turmeric is used in curried foods. If you don't want to use turmeric in your cooking, it is available in capsule form and can be taken before meals.
Aloe Vera JuiceThe juice from the aloe vera plant has been used to soothe an irritated esophagus. Aloe vera juice has a long history of use in Europe as a natural home remedy to relive heartburn. You should only use aloe vera juice that has been specifically prepared for internal use.
Again, it is important to remember that none of these remedies have been carefully studies or compared with standard medications for acid suppression. Discuss the use of any you are interested in with your healthcare provider.
Carol Ann Rinzler, Ken DeVault, MD. Heartburn & Reflux for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2004. ISBN: 0-7645-5688-6
Magee, Elaine: Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. Book-mart Press: New Page Books, 2001, ISBN: 1564145743.
Rogers, M.D., Sherry A.. No More Heartburn: Stop the Pain in 30 Days -- Naturally. Kensington Publishing Corp., 2000.
Sklar, Jill and Cohen, Annabel:Eating or Acid Reflux:Marlowe & Company; Imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. 2003, ISBN: 1569244928.